4 Apr 2012

Paisley Daily Express - 09 April 2012

School Buses
Many of you may have forgotten that SNP and Liberal Democrat Councillors removed school buses from almost 1,000 school pupils in Renfrewshire. Many pupils have to walk up to 3 miles each way per day. It can take a 13 year old up to an hour each way, some arriving at school wet, cold, and tired. One Liberal Democrat Councillor whose child benefitted from a school bus, voted to deny the service to other pupils who lived in her area, after her son left school. In Elderslie, Johnstone, Glenburn and Foxbar, SNP Councillors turned their backs on local families who relied on school buses.
Not everyone has forgotten. Last week I joined with parents who are determined not to give up the fight for their children. On a freezing, wet morning, I experienced just what it is like for youngsters who have to trudge 3 miles to school. It can’t be easy for them. I am backing these parents who want to make this an issue for the Council elections. Ask your candidates if they will do the right thing for our children and restore the school bus service to its previous level.

Congratulations to the Lochwinnoch Millennium Events Group (LMEG). The Group recently made a successful application to the Climate Challenge Fund and has received an award of £442,499. The aim of the Group is to enable householders in Lochwinnoch and 3 neighbouring villages to reduce energy wasted in their homes. The project will also develop car clubs and lift sharing schemes, expand local food producing initiatives and provide better access to information about climate change.
There is a lot that each and every one of us can do to reduce the carbon emissions which damage our environment. I know from having spoken to members of LMEG just how enthusiastic and committed they are to making a difference. I look forward to seeing what nearly £500,000 can do to help their work in local communities.

Reid Kerr Funding
I recently joined staff and students at Reid Kerr College to protest about the funding cuts being imposed by the Scottish Government. Reid Kerr College has a fantastic record and gives many young people from Renfrewshire a chance in life that otherwise would be denied to them. I was told that across Scotland 592 academic staff have been made redundant and colleges are cutting courses. Staff told me that at Reid Kerr and additional 800 students places are having to be cut. I put this to Alex Salmond in the Scottish Parliament and he says that “the figures show an encouraging trend.” Try telling that to staff and students at Reid Kerr College.    

Keep Scotland Beautiful
We live in a beautiful country and often we take it for granted. All too often it takes a visitor from abroad to remind us of what we have. Unfortunately too many people are careless and thoughtless when it comes not just to our wonderful countryside, but also to the towns and villages where we live. The litter, waste and dog dirt is a real disgrace and it blights too many areas. Keep Scotland Beautiful is an environmental charity which campaigns to encourage individuals and communities to take ownership of their local area.
They are now running National Spring Clean 2012, which ends on 31st May 2012. They are looking for local people and groups who want to make a difference to the local area. Last year they worked with 100,000 Scots and this year they have a target of 200,000. If you want to help, visit their website www.keepscotlandbeautiful.org/springclean.

Tax rises for elderly and disabled
No one likes to pay more tax. It would be great if we could keep everything we earn. Of course for many multi millionaires who can afford the best tax advice, this is the reality. Some pay next to nothing in tax. The latest UK budget announced tax cuts for the highest earners, but ordinary low and middle income pensioners are being asked to pay for this. They are losing the additional tax free allowance they received at 65 to give a tax cut to those earning over £150,000 per year.
Locally we all benefit from the freeze in Council Tax. Except that this is not quite true. Because Councils have less money to spend, charges for services to the elderly, sick, and disabled have been increased. Services to these groups are also being cut and I have a regular stream of enquiries from constituents who are worried about their elderly parents, or their adult child who is disabled. As one constituent reminded me last week “If you are elderly, sick, or disabled and need help, you are facing a number of tax rises. You are paying more for home helps, for alarm services, for wardens and more. Remember that these vulnerable people are paying for your Council Tax freeze.